Basic Equipment for Outdoor Photography

Author: Pieter De Pauw

 

It really depends on what you wish to shoot to define what you need. There is no such a thing as a minimum set (except the camera of course).

However, when you shoot outdoors, I would strongly suggest you consider investing in the following (next to a camera of course...):

 

1) a polarizing filter. Typically, when you buy a lens, you will be asked if you want an UV filter. In fact, UV filters are useless for what they were intended (=filtering UV-light out of the light) for digital cameras, since digital sensors are not sensitive to UV light. However, they might serve as extra protection layer for your lens.

 

Instead of buying a (rather useless) UV filter, I would go for the polarizing filter. This filter is often or always used by professionals, but only very few starting amateurs use this filter. Prices for such a filter vary and depend on the quality, but you should find a decent one for 100$.

 

The essence of a polarizing filter, is a circular polarizer that filters un-polarized light (thus only keeps one polarization). It will reduce the reflections and darken the sky. The effect is similar to the use of polarizing sunglasses.  There are several benefits to using polarization filter:

-          since there will be less reflections, you will get more contrast in your colors or deeper color tones, contrast gains which you can’t get during post-production without giving up on the quality of your picture.

-          you will get a darker blue sky. As you might know, the color blue in pictures is attractive (and sells well), so a nice blue sky will result in more appealing pictures

-          you will get a crisper horizon in landscapes, since reflective waves will be filtered

 

 

Using the polarizing filter will require a bit of practice as you need to the turn the filter around in order to have effect. Also, the filter will reduce the ingoing light by 1-3 stops, thus either the aperture size will increase (thus smaller depth of field), either the exposure time will increase.  Because of this, don't leave the filter on if you don't need it.

 

Last, but not least, I believe you get much better outdoor pictures from a cheap(er) lens with a polarizing filter, than from an expensive lens without polarizing filter.

 

2) A decent tripod and a cable release. The cable release will help you to limit vibrations for longer shutter times and only cost a couple of dollars. The tripod is a bit more expensive, but the difference between a cheap and decent one is huge: speed of use, stability, move over time (cheaper tripods with small ballheads might not be able to keep the weight of your camera & lens, and thus slowly but gradually make the camera move).

 

WITHOUT polarizing filter
WITHOUT polarizing filter
WITH polarizing filter
WITH polarizing filter